Chelsea’s interim manager has declared that their Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain is hanging in the balance after the defending Premier League champions lost 2-1 to the French champions in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the opener for the French side before Jon Obi Mikel scored a vital away goal for the visitors. Paris Saint-Germain then spent most of the second period of the game camped in the Chelsea half, eventually earning their victory through an Edison Cavani goal.
With the second leg due to take place at Stamford Bridge on the 9th of March, Hiddink believes that Chelsea are still very much in the tie. He said, “Scoring away is always good. I’m never happy with a loss but it’s not a dramatic loss”.
The Blues have faced Les Parisiens for three successive seasons in the Champions League. The London club triumphed at the quarter final stage of the 2014 competition, whilst PSG got their revenge in the last-16 stage this time last year.
Despite being one of the richest clubs and football and spending billions of pounds building their squad in the Roman Abramovich era, Hiddink admitted that he was a touch envious of PSG’s substitutes bench, from which £55 million rated Cavani emerged to score the winner. Chelsea’s bench only had the likes of Bertrand Traore, Kenedy, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Matt Miazga to turn to.
Hiddink said, “I envy a bit the bench of PSG. They have a very strong bench. If you see what this team can bring on in the second half – world-class players as substitutes. This is a very strong PSG”.
Hiddink struggled to put a recognisable defence together for the match in Paris after injuries in successive weeks to Chelsea’s talented young centre-back Kurt Zouma and the club captain John Terry. The Dutchman chose to push Branislav Ivanovic into the centre alongside Gary Cahill, whilst Baba Rahman started in the right-back slot. Hiddink was pleased with the defensive work from his whole team saying, “The players did well, not just the four in defence. We also had a disciplined midfield”.
Meanwhile PSG’s manager, Laurent Blanc, said he was confident that there would be goals in the second leg. He said, “When you play at home you need to be stronger in defence because, if you concede a goal, it effectively counts double. Chelsea scored, so we go to Stamford Bridge eager to score ourselves. We’ll have chances, most likely, so it’ll be about defending well but we are an attacking team. I don’t think Chelsea will change their approach for the second leg. Neither will we. So the return game will probably be open and, hopefully, with some goals”.
Chelsea had been unbeaten in all competitions since Hiddink took over from Jose Mourinho as manager in December. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ was sacked by the club owner, Abramovich, after leading the Blues to their worst start in a top-flight campaign since the 1960s. It’s the second time that Hiddink has come in on an interim basis, taking over from Luiz Philipe Scolari when the Brazilian was sacked in 2009. One loss at the end of a twelve match unbeaten run won’t both Hiddink too much, but PSG will feel they have the upper hand heading into the second leg of the Champions League tie.